Yom Kippur – A Real Fast?

Yom Kippur

A Real Fast?

The Haftarah of Yom Kippur is about what attitude is proper for a person who fasts. The main idea behind a fast is to show G-d that we are serious about changing our unhealthy ways. Hopefully, as a result G-d will help us with our problems.

The Prophet Yishayahu (Isa. 57-14) was told by G-d to say this prophecy as loud as a shofar. The message in it was therefore of paramount importance.

The people who the prophet Yishayahu refers to were real creeps. Even on the day of the fast they were busy taking advantage of people. They would muscle poor people out of their money and would beat those who did not pay up. The business discussions which they had on the day of the fast were so loud that it seemed that the argument was the purpose of the fast. Perhaps it was as if they were so busy arguing that they had no time to eat.

The Navi then tells them that the healthiest way for them to fast is to free their captives and give their employees a little brake. They should bring the homeless in and feed them, give food to any hungry person and cloth those who have no garments. They also must do business honestly.

The Navi then says that when they act in such a way they will certainly be answered. G-d will help them with whatever they request. They will be so blessed from such ethical behavior that they will have opportunity to rebuild buildings. Fixing old properties would be so popular that they would be nick named “fencer of the broken fences.”

The Navi then takes an interesting twist in his prophecy. He starts to say the famous pesukim which we Sepharadim include in the Shabat morning Kiddush.

If you prevent your legs from walking to do your business on my holy day,(….) and you call shabbat pleasant to the holy, honorable G-d and you honor it by not going on your way to do your errands and by not speaking about business. Then you will relax on G-d and he will drive you to the highest places, and you will consume the blessing of Ya’akov your forefather Because the mouth of G-d has spoken.

What is the connection between telling the people to relax on Shabat and that they should fast with the proper intentions? The truth is that there is a very strong connection between the two different concepts.

The prophets complaint against the people who fast was that they oppressed people at the very same time that they were fasting and praying to G-d. In Judaism, being religious and oppressing innocent people are concepts which do not go together. This is so important that the prophet has to scream like a shofar.

A significant part of keeping shabat is giving your employees a rest. In the words of our Haftara you should release their shackles. If an employee has a little time off he will not feel so oppressed.

The Connection is even stronger than that. We are told to prevent our feet from doing business on Shabat. Much of the business of the people who the Navi was rebuking was to squeeze money out of people. I am sure that they did this relentlessly. If they take the day off from oppressing people and relax on Shabat they will not be oppressing people. Instead they will give them a break.

Additionally, remember that when they were fasting they were screaming at each other very loud about their business. The Shabat Pasuk not only says not to do business but not even to speak a word of business. Take it easy and relax.

Even better than that by keeping Shabat they get much more benefits than they get from any other commandment. Certainly they get more benifit than for fasting. The Pasuk says that they will get the blessing of Ya’akov. That blessing was “You will East and West, North and South.”